Terrorist Target 2010: The Salad Bar

Adriana Velez

salad barRight after 9/11 I started ranting to friends and family that I just knew the terrorists would go after our food supply next. I was dismissed as a loon. But now, years later, I am vindicated! There actually is a terrorist plot targeting our food.

Okay, I'm not actually glad to hear this news. The Department of Homeland Security has uncovered a plot to douse salad bars and buffets with two poisons, ricin and cyanide. It's part of Operation Hemorraghe, a plan to cripple the U.S. with lots of smaller but more frequent attacks.

They're hitting Americans where we're most vulnerable -- in our bellies! Er, I mean, in our already ailing economy. But is this really part of a bold plan, or is al Qaeda scaling back their operations and then trying to spin it as terrorism genius? Should we really be worried?

When Homeland Security spokesman Sean Smith talked with CBS News he seemed concerned enough to alert public health officials, but reluctant to stir the rest of us up into a tizzy.

We are not going to comment on reports of specific terrorist planning. However, the counterterrorism and homeland security communities have engaged in extensive efforts for many years to guard against all types of terrorist attacks, including unconventional attacks using chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials. Indeed, Al-Qa'ida has publicly stated its intention to try to carry out unconventional attacks for well over a decade, and AQAP propaganda in the past year has made similar reference.

And then he ends with this zinger: "Finally, we get reports about the different kinds of attacks terrorists would like to carry out that frequently are beyond their assessed capability."

Maybe this his way of telling al Qaeda, "Um, poisoning us via the Golden Corral Buffet? Yeah, good luck with that."

Here's what I think: you're still more likely to get poisoned by your fellow Americans through careless food handling than by a terrorist plot. Hopefully the newly-passed Food Safety Bill will make our food supply a little bit safer. But history has shown us that the amount of damage a handful of angry young men in Afghanistan (or Pakistan) can wreak is nothing compared with the damage a handful of giant food companies can wreak in the pursuit of profit.

What worries you more, terrorism or run-of-the-mill contamination from U.S. companies?

Image via angela n./Flickr.

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